Wild South Florida — Painted Bunting
 
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Painted Bunting
painted bunting
Female and male painted buntings in a feeder at Green Cay Nature Center in Boynton Beach.
painted bunting
 

With its blues, reds, oranges, yellows and greens, the painted bunting, Passerina ciris, is virtually a feathered rainbow. There really is no other North American bird like it. You almost have to see it to believe that a bird can be this brilliantly colored.

And despite some seriously declining numbers, it's still fairly easy to spot painted buntings here in South Florida if you know where and when to look for them.

There are actually two populations of painted buntings in the United States: western, which spends its summers in the south-central part of the country, including extreme northwestern Florida, and winters in Mexico, and an eastern, which summers along the Atlantic Coast between North Carolina and Titusville and travels to South Florida and the Caribbean to keep warm during the cold months. So we see them from fall into spring.

Painted buntings are finches, tiny birds that top out at about 5 inches long. Males are the gaudy ones; females are green and yellow green, drab only in contrast with the guys. Juveniles lack any sort of color, however.They eat mainly seeds — their short, stout beak is perfect for cracking them open — but during breeding season, they will down a bug or two. They live in areas with low, dense vegetation, so spotting them can be difficult.

 
         
painted bunting
 

However, they do frequent feeders, like the ones spotted around Green Cay Nature Center in Boynton Beach, where these photographs were taken.

During breeding season, males become extremely territorial, and will fight to keep other males out, even to the point of inflicting serious injury or death. During the rest of the year, not so much. It's common to see numerous males and females gathering at the same feeder in winter.

Painted buntings are generally monogomous; a mating pair can have as many as three broods during a season. A clutch of three or four eggs take less than two weeks to hatch, and fledge about 10 days later.

Painted buntings are not listed by any government agency as either endangered or threatened, but the International Union for Conservation of Nature considers it "near threatened" through loss of habitat and capture for the pet trade. It's estimated that the population has decline 4.5 percent on average annually since 1966. Painted buntings are are members of Cardinalidae, the cardinal family.

 
 
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More Links for Painted Bunting

Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology National Audubon Society UNC-Wilmington Painted Bunting Obervation Team
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